2021 Defensive Back Big Board


(image credit: Kevin Jiraj - USA Today Sports)


Written by: Joseph Yun

Twitter: 2Yoon2ZeroBlitz


The 2021 draft is mere hours away! We’re finally here after a long and arduous wait after a unique 2020 season and subsequent offseason process. Welcome to the final edition of the 2021 positional big boards!


The defensive back class is a deep one as is usually the case in the modern era. Who will be the next star like Jalen Ramsey, Patrick Peterson, or Tyrann Mathieu? Someone has to stop the big name receivers that we see in the league today, are these young guns coming into their own up to the task?


Note: All RAS scores were courtesy of relativeathleticscores.com and @MathBomb


Note 2: All Blitzalytics scores are a result of an internal grading system based on the ten point grading scale


If you missed the previous articles in the series, they are linked below


Quarterback

Running Back

Wide Receiver

Tight End

Offensive Line

Defensive Line

Linebacker


CB


1. Patrick Surtain, Jr Alabama


- The son of longtime NFL star Patrick, Sr is a great prospect in his own right. PS II is the best cornerback in the class bar none. The former five star recruit was nothing but sensational for the Crimson Tide. He’s the most well schooled in the fundamentals corner prospect that I’ve seen in a few years. The RAS is an all time elite score and with good reason. He has all the prerequisite traits such as athleticism, instincts, and the physical profile to become a lockdown alpha CB1 for the team that selects him. Plays like he’s been taught by the best teachers. Physically, he reminds me of Xavier Rhodes as both aren’t the fastest but play the position so well that speed isn’t a huge thing. Surtain should be well inside the top ten selections on Thursday night.


Draft Projection: Top 10


RAS: 9.96


Blitzalytics Grade: 8.3


Pro Comp: Xavier Rhodes


2. Jaycee Horn South Carolina


- If Surtain is the top corner, then Horn is the clear cut CB2 on the board. The RAS is a smidge higher but not by much. Horn is a top level prospect and in any other year, he would be CB1 off the board. He has the height / weight / length to go up against any receiver and shut them down. You build schemes around him instead of the other way around. He’s a true blue bonafide shutdown corner. Horn is the son of former Saints star wideout Joe Horn so he has to know what tricks that receivers will use already. The former Gamecock has a chance to live up to the lofty reputation that another former alum in Stephon Gilmore has paved. Horn compares to Jalen Ramsey of the Rams. He should be the second corner off the board within the top 15 selections.


Draft Projection: Top 15


RAS: 9.99


Blitzalytics Grade: 8.00


Pro Comp: Jalen Ramsey


3. Caleb Farley Virginia Tech


- Farley is the most intriguing prospect of the big three as the talent is there but the medical history is quite alarming. He opted out of the 2020 season and was a late injury scratch at his Pro Day. The last time we saw him on the field was late during the 2019 season. Scheme and position diverse. He’s a tall and athletic corner with great ball skills. If he's healthy, he can be one of the best corners in the league but the medical issues are glaring. The recent news that he’ll probably need more surgery is also not ideal. He’ll be a big boom / bust prospect if a team selects him in the first round right now.


Draft Projection: First to Second Round


RAS: N/A


Blitzalytics Grade: 8.03


Pro Comp: Antonio Cromartie


4. Eric Stokes Georgia


- Stokes surprised some people when he ran a blistering 4.31 at the Georgia Pro Day, which has vaulted him into top five corner conversation. He has a ton of lateral and straight line athleticism so he can turn and run with nearly everyone. Equally adept at playing both man and zone so he isn’t pigeonholed into one particular scheme. Above average ball skills. His rise up the boards will probably land him in the second round when it’s all said and done. He was the CB1 for Georgia ahead of another likely high selection, Tyson Campbell so the talent and potential is there.


Draft Projection: Second to Third Round


RAS: 9.37


Blitzalytics Grade: 7.37


Pro Comp: Kyle Fuller


5. Greg Newsome II Northwestern


- Newsome has had a spectacular rise up the boards in 2021 after two years of starting at Northwestern. The production isn’t what you would expect from a top five cornerback but he did manage to get 16 passes defensed in those years. Speed and lateral agility are present in nearly everything that he does. He has good makeup speed and the instincts are developing. The RAS is accurate to his film. The former Wildcat will probably end up going in the second round after some first round talk. He profiles similarly to Janoris Jenkins.


Draft Projection: First to Second Round


RAS: 9.66


Blitzalytics Grade: 7.36


Pro Comp: Janoris Jenkins


6. Elijah Molden Washington


- Molden played a bit of both corner and single high safety for the Huskies during his time there so the versatility is there. He’s the son of former Saints defensive back Alex Molden and was a huge recruiting miss for Oregon as father Alex is considered Ducks royalty. The younger Molden is best suited for a nickel role as the size isn’t great (5’9). He’ll likely be selected in the third round to his lineage and ability. Profiles similarly to Florida State great Lamarcus Joyner in play style and positional versatility.


Draft Projection: Third Round


RAS: 4.66


Blitzalytics Grade: 7.37


Pro Comp: Lamarcus Joyner


7. Asante Samuel, Jr Florida State


- The son of longtime Patriots and Eagles star cornerback Asante Samuel. Jr is an undersized corner that played through multiple defensive coordinators so he’s scheme diverse. His athleticism is among the best in the class. He can turn and run with any receiver, including the smaller and faster slots. However, the size hinders him a bit in run defense as he can be pushed around and has some difficulties disengaging from blocks. Ball skills are above average. It shows that he is the son of a famous corner father with his overall talent. There have been rumors that he will go in the first round but I think he’s at worst a low second round selection.


Draft Projection: Second Round


RAS: 7.46


Blitzalytics Grade: 7.08


Pro Comp: Devin McCourty (cornerback version)


8. Paulsen Adebo Stanford


- Adebo opted out of the 2020 season after missing some of the 2019 season due to injury. He has a nose for the football with 27 passes defensed and four interceptions in his career. Teams will be wary of the medical file a bit. He converted to cornerback upon his arrival at Stanford so he’s still developing as a prospect so the full potential isn’t realized yet. Experienced as a two year starter for one of the premier west coast programs. Diagnostic skills are a plus plus. He’ll likely get drafted early on Day 3 based on the potential but could slip for medical reasons.


Draft Projection: Fourth Round


RAS: 9.55


Blitzalytics Grade:


Pro Comp:


9. Ifeatu Melifonwu Syracuse


- The younger brother of former UCONN star Obi who blew away everyone during his draft process with his athleticism. Let’s just say that the apple doesn’t fall from that tree. Ifeatu is an athlete who still is developing the more technical nuances of the position. He has the physical traits to play both corner and safety in the league. The RAS came out to be slightly worse than the older brother but just a touch. Melifonwu can turn and run like a smaller corner than his size indicates. Smooth transitions in and out of the route. Solid in run defense and he improved his talents from year to year while in college so that’s a positive sign. He’s a taller corner at 6’2 so tall receivers won’t be a challenge. He could develop into a decent CB2 but has all the potential in the world to be a great CB3 on a strong team. A team might like his physical profile enough to take him in the third round (hello Las Vegas) but he slips to the fourth round.


Draft Projection: Third to Fourth Round


RAS: 9.69


Blitzalytics Grade: 7.57


10. Benjamin St. Juste Minnesota


- The former Michigan corner transferred to Minnesota after his sophomore season. He’s a bigger corner at 6’3 so he can check receivers off the line easily. A tough hombre who battles every rep despite some athletic limitations (which isn’t surprising given his height). St. Juste is an intriguing H/L type that could be drafted earlier than some expect given his physical style of play and traits that will play. His play in 2020 earned him a Senior Bowl invitation where he put on a good show against smaller receivers. He profiles as a perfect CB2 complement like a latter day Malcolm Butler should be or a William Jackson.


Draft Projection: Fourth to Fifth Round


RAS: 8.13


Pro Comp: Kevin King / Marcus Peters


11. Tyson Campbell Georgia


- The former five star recruit had an inauspicious start to his career but finally put it together as a junior this past season. He’s an exceptional athlete in all areas of the field. Campbell is physical with the receiver through the whole rep and has the explosive burst to keep up. Doesn’t care who it is and is willing to step up against high profile receivers. A willing tackler in the run game. Teams will question his lack of production given his lofty hype and the team around him. Still, his talent should net him a selection in the third round.


Draft Projection: Third Round


RAS: 7.53


Blitzalytics Grade: 6.77


Pro Comp: Michael Ojemudia


12. Kelvin Joseph Kentucky


- The former LSU cornerback transferred to Kentucky after being suspended for the all encompassing ubiquitous violation of team rules policy. He started only one year in 2020 for the Wildcats. Joseph is a serviceable athlete with some competitive fire to his game. His ball skills are improving and production was acceptable given the circumstances of the past season. Possesses ideal size (5’11 197). He tested well in RAS at Kentucky’s Pro Day. Teams will question him about the situation that ended up with his departure from the Bayou Bengals. Combine his lack of significant starting experience and off field issues, he’ll likely slip to the fourth round despite having at least second round talent.


Draft Projection: Fourth Round


RAS: 9.02


Pro Comp:


13. Aaron Robinson UCF


- Robinson initially signed with Alabama out of high school before transferring to Central Florida as a sophomore. He’s a smart and instinctive corner who can identify routes as they happen and make plays accordingly. Lateral agility is a plus to his game. He’s a solid athlete overall. The RAS is indicative of his true athleticism. Willing defender in the run game. Versatile prospect who can play both slot and on the perimeter. He should be drafted on Day 3. Profiles similar to Jaylen Watkins athletically.


Draft Projection: Third to Fourth Round

RAS: 8.38


Blitzalytics Grade: 7.34


Pro Comp: Jaylen Watkins


14. Thomas Graham, Jr Oregon


- Graham opted out of the 2020 season after Pac-12 made some questionable decisions regarding its fall season. As the RAS indicates, he’s a slightly above average athlete with good ball skills. A willing and competitive dude in the run game as well as being physical against any receivers. He’s been through multiple schemes so no issues there. Doesn’t have the athletic ability to play slot but can play well as an outside corner. Ideal CB2 for a team that can develop him further. It’s understandable that he opted out but he could’ve used another year in the Ducks defense. He projects as a solid middle Day 3 selection at this point.


Draft Projection: Fifth Round


RAS: 5.65


Blitzalytics Grade: 6.88


15. Ambry Thomas Michigan


- Thomas opted out of the 2020 season. He's an effective man corner who is inconsistent when he has to play in zone coverage. Really good at press man coverage. Sufficient athlete who showed well at Michigan’s Pro Day. Special teams experience throughout his career. Great communicator with teammates. He should be an early Day 3 selection.


Draft Projection: Fourth to Fifth Round


RAS: 8.97


Blitzalytics Grade: 5.95


16. Keith Taylor, Jr Washington


- Taylor is one of the bigger corners in the class at 6’2 so he can play on the perimeter with little drop off. He also has experience in the slot as well. Instinctive and a sufficient athlete who is very physical with the receiver off the line and through the route. His play earned him a Senior Bowl invitation where he shined. It could be said that he was the better of the two Washington defensive backs in this year’s class. Taylor has the H/W/L that teams covet in corners. He should get drafted in the fourth round but has a chance to go in the third round.


Draft Projection: Third to Fourth Round


RAS: 6.54


17. Kary Vincent, Jr LSU


- The son of NFL veteran Kary, Sr who had a stint with the Saints. Vincent was an ideal CB3 for the Tigers during the past two seasons that he played. He opted out of the 2020 season. The size isn’t great (5’9 185) so he could be limited to slot duties at the pro level. Above average athlete who can diagnose routes quickly with great ball skills. The former LSU DB could make a roster if he decides to transition into a slot corner / free safety hybrid type. His athleticism and skill set should get him drafted on Day 3.


Draft Projection: Fourth to Fifth Round


RAS: 4.11


Safety


1. Trevon Moehrig TCU


- Moehrig is by far the best overall safety in the class. He’s an above average athlete who can run with the faster receivers. He can cover sideline to sideline like a cornerback and has great ball skills. He has a tendency to go for the home run hit instead of wrapping up properly so that needs to be coached out of him. The former Horned Frogs safety can switch between free and strong safety responsibility without any trouble. There could be some teams that use him as a slot corner in certain packages due to his versatility. Stylistically, he plays like Bears standout safety Eddie Jackson and physically profiles similarly to longtime veteran Thomas DeCoud.


Draft Projection: First Round


RAS: 7.37


Blitzalytics Grade: 7.93


Pro Comp: Eddie Jackson / Thomas DeCoud



2. Richie Grant UCF


- Grant leaps up to second place after an outstanding 2020 campaign and draft process. He’s definitely a physical presence and is a fundamentally sound tackler. Speed and lateral agility are above average tools in his kit. He’s seemingly all over the place and has a nose for the ball (as 17 PBU, 10 interceptions, and five forced fumbles can attest), no matter where. He also has experience being a box safety and being an effective blitzer off the edge. Perhaps a tad overaggressive in pursuit angles. He plays a lot bigger than he’s listed at with his attitude and style of play. The scout was dead on with the Malcolm Jenkins comparison because the two profile in a similar manner in terms of physical traits. He should be a solid Day 2 selection.


Draft Projection: Second to Third Round


RAS: 7.80


Blitzalytics Grade: 7.62


Pro Comp: Malcolm Jenkins


3. Jevon Holland Oregon


- Holland opted out of the 2020 season following the Pac-12’s initial decision to postpone. He projects best as a big nickel type of safety who can also play some corner due to his athleticism and experience in a 4-2-5 system that the Ducks ran in 2019. As the RAS score indicates, he is a great athlete who can play a variety of roles and isn’t scared to take on anyone. Plus ball skills and is well versed in zone and man. He hardly lost a rep in coverage due to his football IQ and physical traits. A willing tackler who brings it on every play. He most compares to former Miami legend Antrell Roll physically and stylistically. He shouldn’t get past the third round.


Draft Projection: Third Round


RAS: 9.54


Blitzalytics Grade: 7.92


Pro Comp: Antrel Rolle


4. Andre Cisco Syracuse


- Cisco was hyped to be one of the best safeties in the class before his 2020 was prematurely ended by a knee injury. He has great ball skills as evidenced by the interception numbers and is a talented ball tracker. Football IQ is really impressive as well as his work within the defensive structure at Syracuse. Great at finding the correct passing lanes and interfering with the quarterback’s eyes. He’s athletic and strong enough to play both safety spots. Run defense is where a fault can be found as he isn’t the most consistently sound tackler in the world. Teams will have to be careful on how he is progressing in his rehab before drafting him. Still, the talent level should get him drafted pretty early on Day 3.


Draft Projection: Fourth Round


RAS: N/A


5. Talanoa Hufanga USC


- Hufanga was a rare instate prospect that was a heartbreaking recruitment that got away from the Ducks. He was a great player for the Trojans who went through the ringer in all sorts of ways. He has above average ball skills and is willing to get physical no matter where on the field. Not the most overly athletic so he will struggle some in coverage compared to others on this list. He’s primarily a run first safety who can slide into the box as a linebacker in certain situations. There’s the medical aspect as well as he has dealt with a litany of injuries through the years so teams will be wary of that. Stylistically, he compares to Kenny Vaccaro or of recent vintage, Mark Barron who was a college safety but made the transition into a hybrid at the pro level.


Draft Projection: Fourth to Fifth Round


RAS: 5.77


Blitzalytics Grade: 6.49


Pro Comp: Kenny Vaccaro / Mark Barron


6. Ar’Darius Washington TCU


- Moehrig’s buddy is no slouch himself as a prospect. Washington is a fundamentally sound tackler who doesn’t miss a lot in the run game. He’s a versatile athlete who can play corner and free safety along with some dime linebacker duties. The size is a little concerning at just 5’8 however. The football IQ is great. Teams will love his confidence and versatility. The former TCU safety should be comfortably selected early on Day 3. His physical profile and play style is similar to Lamarcus Joyner


Draft Projection: Fourth Round


RAS: 5.13


Blitzalytics Grade: 7.90


Pro Comp: Lamarcus Joyner


7. Joshuah Bledsoe Missouri


- Bledsoe’s play merited a Senior Bowl invite alongside teammate Ty Gilliespie. He’s an athletic safety that can play some slot corner at the next level for an enterprising defensive staff. Solid base as a tackler. He has the prerequisite speed and lateral agility for the position. Can turn and run with virtually anyone. Football IQ is above average as well thus his quick diagnostic skills. He’ll likely get drafted on Day 3 and play special teams before becoming an eventual starter as a “big” nickel. He compares physically to former USC defensive back Iman Lewis-Marshall.


Draft Projection: Fifth to Sixth Round